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Erin Ann McBride
Tuesday, March 20 2012

Meeting New Friends Isn't Always Easy

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A few days ago something fairly profound occurred to me. It is time to stop pretending and instead, start accepting God's plan for me. And by that I mean, it is time to start making friends in my town.

But let me back up to the beginning of my story.

I moved to my current town about two years ago when I got laid off from my job. I moved in with relatives and began a new career as a freeloader. Actually, no, I jest. I very, very diligently worked every day for two years to find a new job, while depending on unemployment benefits to get by. And trust me, it didn't get me very far. I sent out more resumes and applications than I can count. I went on more job interviews than I care to recall. But none of them were here in this little town I live in. I never had any interest or intent in living here permanently. I had enough job interviews coming my way that for the better part of the past two years it always felt like a move was just around the bend. As a result, I never unpacked because it never seemed worth it. Yes, for two years I have lived out of four large bins and one suitcase of clothing. Most of earthly possessions remain in a storage facility in another state because I haven't wanted to move them twice (once here, and then on to my next location).

When my bishop first approached me about accepting a calling, I said yes, but on the condition that everyone understood I was actively looking to leave, and couldn't commit for the long run. No worries, he said, they all hoped I would only have the calling a few weeks too. A few months later the topic of me handling Girls' Camp came up. Again, I said yes, but on the condition that everyone understood I was expecting a job offer any day, and someone else would need to go to camp with the girls.

Just a few weeks after I returned from Girls Camp I moved out of one relative's house and into my family's newly purchased house. The arrangement was that I would house sit for them, temporarily, until this new pending job offer came through and I could move. The move (of approximately five miles) meant switching wards. My new bishopric extended me a calling immediately (the same calling I hadn't even yet been released from in the other ward). Again, I made the same conditions as I accepted the calling. I had just interviewed with a company several times, it looked promising, yada yada yada.

(Something unique about my new ward, the bishop is my cousin, one counselor is my uncle, and the other counselor is the father-in-law of one of my cousins. I'm related to approximately 85% of the ward. Not the best conditions if you are looking to date someone, but great for someone looking for an organ donor match.)

It just so happens that it was my uncle who set me apart for this new calling. Obviously, he knows me well, but on that particular day he was not fully aware of a few aspects of my life. As he set me apart, he said something that really struck a chord with me. I wasn't told to stop job hunting, I was told to stop trying so hard to leave town, and commit to making it my home. Another detail that stands out strongly for me is that I don't remember if he said the words, or if I just felt the Spirit say it to me. Nonetheless, I got the message loud and clear.

We'll fast forward the next portion of this story about how suddenly all my promising job leads fell apart just as I lost my unemployment benefits. Exhausted and mentally beaten from two years of unemployment, I gave myself permission to stop for a month. And then, how out of the blue, not one, but two different companies came to me and invited me to work for them, from home. After two years of job hunting, suddenly things were coming together for me. And then, yet again, I was asked to be the Girls Camp leader. This time, remembering what I had heard in my setting apart, I accepted without any caveats.

Now, at this point I could take this column and make it about job hunting, relying on the Spirit, or accepting God's will for me. But this is a singles column, and I'm about to make a left-hand turn here, so watch out!

Everything has gone well for me in the last few weeks and months. In fact, things have been great. I really can't complain at all. But again, back to this whole singles and dating thing. Where could I possibly be going with this, you ask? I realized there is one last important step I need to take in order to commit to living here, or “stop trying to leave,” or plain and simple, accept that the Lord wants me to live right here, whether I ever saw that coming or not.

I have to start making friends. (And it wouldn't hurt if ever wanted to start dating again.)

At mutual last week the Elders pulled me aside and asked if they could challenge the youth to bring a friend to the next activity. I agreed. And then they asked me if I would set the example by bringing a friend myself.

And that's when I realized I have a problem.

See, I don't know anyone in this town who isn't in my ward or related to me. I don't know one non-member. Not one. I work from home. The only people I talk to are my cousins or ward members. I haven't tried to make friends here because I have always been on the verge of leaving. I can't set the example for the youth because I really and truly don't have anyone to invite.

And that is when it hit me. If I am really to accept the prompting that this is what is right for me (that I need to commit to living here), I have to start making friends and meeting people. It is also time to accept that the Lord doesn't want me, or you, or anyone, to be alone and lonely. We're a social species. We're supposed to make friends.

It isn't easy meeting people in a fairly small town where you already know all of the church members (and you are related to half of the town). I've heard this complaint from many singles over the years. How and where do you meet people when your ward or stake isn't an option? Knowing that I am not alone in this problem, I have come up with a list of ways to help singles make new friends.I'm not just offering these up for others to try, I plan to take my own advice and start doing them as well.

Here's my list of suggestions:

Online Sites

You never know who might live just outside of your stake or ward boundaries and also thinks they are the only LDS single in the area.

Community Recreation Groups

It doesn't matter how big or small your town is, every town as a softball league, soccer league, bowling league, etc.


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